Providing high-quality patient experiences has been a top priority for hospital executives for some time now. But with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) tying reimbursements to HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores, it’s now a financial priority. In this guest post, Frank Costanzo, SVP business development at a global human capital management assessment and development firm, highlights one major strategy that can improve patient experience and boost HCAHPS scores.


In 1993, my wife and I were visiting her best friend and staying at her house for a long Thanksgiving weekend. My wife, who was six months pregnant with our first child, had a minor allergic reaction to cats in the past. That weekend, however, she had a serious asthma attack which led to a late night visit to the local emergency room, an overnight hospital stay, and more than $20,000 in tests and hospital costs.

The hospital staff was terrific and provided excellent care, but looking back on the experience I wonder if the hospital may have been motivated to deploy more tests than necessary to make sure that my wife and baby would be fine, while generating as much revenue as possible. We were in such a panic we agreed to everything they recommended.

How a hospital would respond today

Nowadays, hospitals are driven to maximize HCAHPS results. As you know, based in part on these HCAHPS scores, hospitals can either loose or gain up to 1.5% of their Medicare payments in fiscal year 2015. CMS will up the ante over the next few years, with 2% of reimbursement dollars ultimately being at risk by fiscal year 2017.

Ronald Regan once said, “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” Reflecting on that, indeed hospitals have felt the heat applied by the changing methods of reimbursements, and as a result they’ve seen the light and the benefits associated with increasing HCAHPS scores.

Increase HCAHPS success rates

As Mary Kay O’Connor stated in her article, The Secret to Improved HCAHPS Scores, “For HCAHPS to positively impact Medicare reimbursements, your ratings must improve continuously and at a faster rate than other U.S. hospitals. ‘The winners,’ if you will, are not simply hospitals that improve but hospitals that learn how to improve their HCAHPS at a faster rate than their peers.”

One common element which directly affects HCAHPS results is the quality of the people at all levels within a hospital and the manner in which their personality influences the way that they interact with patients and coworkers.

Some of the primary drivers of HCAHPS results, which may be influenced by the personality of the clinical and support staff caring for patients, are:

  • Active listening – A natural tendency to enhance mutual understanding in communicating with others by expressing genuine interest in and providing full attention to, the content and meaning of others’ messages.
  • Interpersonal communicating – Providing information required by others in a concise, direct and unambiguous way. Perceiving how the message affects the receiver and striving to ensure the receiver clearly understands the information.
  • Interpersonal sensitivity – This relates effectively to other people, when you sense the impact of your own behavior upon others and modify your approach in order to achieve productive outcomes.
  • Relationship building – The ability to develop long-term interactions with others based on trust that’ll work toward the best interest of everyone involved and provide positive results.
  • Collaboration and teamwork – Working collaboratively with others to achieve mutual goals. Individual goals are second to focusing on working with others in a way that encourages each person’s contributions toward achieving optimal outcomes for the team.
  • Organizational citizenship – Motivation to focus efforts toward the common good; place the organization’s goals before individual, functional or business unit goals; and demonstrate the desire to be a part of something that extends beyond self-interest.
  • Quality orientation – The ability to ensure that all work is performed with excellence, and to high standards for quality and integrity.
  • Achievement motivation and perseverance – Determination to achieve ever-increasing levels of performance. This involves setting high standards and challenging goals for oneself, others and the organization, and requires a constant focus on achieving and exceeding those goals.
  • Professionalism – This is the natural tendency to set high standards and serve as role models for work performance, ethical conduct and respect for others. People who exhibit this consistently conduct themselves in a manner consistent with generally accepted moral principles and values within the guidelines and best practices of their given profession.

Questions to ponder

With a growing amount of revenue at stake, hospital leaders must look for strategies to improve the patient experience and boost their HCAHPS results. A consistent focus on personality for hiring and development of all personnel is essential for patient satisfaction and long-term hospital profit.

So ask yourself:

  • Have you established and communicated the specific guidelines for the personality drivers that will lead to success in your hospital?
  • Have you implemented a scientifically valid and reliable assessment for predicting the degree to which individuals in your organization bring these competencies to everything they do and positively contribute to your HCAHPS scores?

Now is the time to take action to continuously maximize your HCAHPS to stay competitive.

Frank Costanzo is SVP of business development at Caliper, a global human capital management assessment and development firm.

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